Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Nature Marches On Relentlessly & Now It's Taking Back My Beloved Old House

It was, after all, only a house, but I loved it with all my heart.   
brought my newborn children home to its welcoming embrace, cherished it in summer heat and winter cold, and worked tirelessly to keep it from the fate that befalls far too many historic structures, in this case a house that rose from from the verdant creek lands of southeastern Chester County, Pennsylvania over 300 years ago.   
But the love was not reciprocated and the house was killed twice over.    
It was first killed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which was gifted what is . . . or was formally known as the John Evans House and the lands around it by an act of Congress.  Its response was to willfully neglect an historic structure that predates the commonwealth itself by nearly 75 years and then list it for demolition.  And then it was killed again in September 2017 by what in all likelihood was an arsonist. 
But nature marches on relentlessly.  Now my beloved old house is slowly but inextricably being taken back, witness the vines cascading down the walls and the fern growing from the rubble of the cellar floor beneath what was once the living room (top photo) and the vines insinuating themselves into what was once the dining room (bottom photo).   
Rick Darke took these haunting (to me anyway) photos on a recent morning.  Besides being a friend, Rick is a landscape ethicist "whose work blends art, ecology, horticulture, and cultural geography in the creation, conservation and management of broadly functional living landscapes," as a blurb on one of his several outstanding books explains. 
Rick, who certainly would know, had this to say about about that nature-taking-back thing:
The plant growing from the basement floor level in line with the fireplaces is not a fern, but staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina), a locally indigenous species.  
Sad as the state of the house is, there's something sunny in the resiliency of local vegetation.  Unfortunately this year's abundant rains have accelerated the establishment of opportunists including the sumac, various grasses and multiple vines including oriental bittersweet and mile-a-minute vine.  The vines are especially damaging to the mortar.   
The building still seems sturdy enough to be a candidate for stabilization and preservation as such.  Not that there seem to be any funds.  
As I wrote here, despite the deterioration of the roof, attic and floors, the walls of the house remain structurally sound and survived the fire pretty much intact, a monument to the built-to-last craftsmanship of the 18th and 19th centuries.  And despite much hankie-wringing in recent years among wannabe preservationists that the house was about to fall down, no such thing was going to happen. 
But Rick is right.  There are no funds. 


HCC said...

t must be so very poignant to recall crucial moments with beloveds or times of solitude in those very spaces and see now such bare-bones remains. It might be somewhat like visiting the gravesite of kin.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Shaun. I drove past recently. Sad.